Native America Culture & Service

Students will travel to La Plant, South Dakota to visit the Cheyenne River Native American reservation where they will partner with the Simply Smiles organization for one week and students from another U.S.-based school, participating in service. Service includes building housing in the mornings, and organizing and conducting day camps for local children in the afternoon. House construction provides students the opportunity to learn about basic construction, while working side-by-side and interacting with the family for which the particular house is being built. The afternoon day camp utilizes a student’s enthusiasm, but also individual expertise and passions, allowing students to participate in ongoing activities, or to design and create their own.

Prior to the trip, student volunteers will meet with faculty trip leaders, discuss shared readings on tribe history and current health and community issues, and plan appropriate afternoon activities.

This program is open to all current 9th, 10th and 11th grade students with a preference towards those with a demonstrated interest in service and/or Native American studies. All interested students are encouraged to apply by October 30. Financial aid is available for all trips with priority for students who have not previously received aid for a Deerfield trip.

Program Dates

This trip has concluded. The following information has been provided for reference. Please check back soon for updates on our next trip.

Program Notes

  • This is an “unplugged” trip where students will not have access to cell phones or internet for the duration of their time in La Plant.
  • Students and faculty leaders will update families and friends at home through our Notes from Abroad blog.
  • This trip conflicts with the June 9 ACT
  • You must be at least 15 years of age at the time the trip starts (June 9, 2018), according to Simply Smiles program policies

Example Itinerary


  • Fly to Rapid City, South Dakota, and upon arrival be transported by Simply Smiles vehicle and staff member to the community center in La Plant; a five-hour drive broken up by short visits to local sites.


  • Orientation: visiting construction sites and families, and culminating with an all-community dinner including local residents and their children.


  • Work begins in earnest as we wake for an 8AM breakfast and depart by 9AM for construction sites. Students work with Simply Smiles staff and other adults, learning construction techniques and getting to know the local family for which they are building their particular home.
  • At roughly noon, students pack up and return to the community center for lunch. Local kids are bussed to the center for lunch with students, and following lunch is an afternoon of day camp-type games with the local kids. Students are encouraged to design activities based on their personal interests or expertise.
  • After camp ends at roughly 4PM, the local kids are bussed back to their homes and volunteers enjoy some free time before dinner. After dinner cleanup duties are executed by volunteers, followed by short debriefing meetings with staff and Deerfield faculty.


  • Identical to Monday


  • Student volunteers perform standard morning construction duties, but for the afternoon, we ride in a bus with the local children and drive 40 minutes to swim in the Missouri river- weather permitting. Other options include a movie at a local city.


  • Volunteers spend the morning at their construction sites, and after lunch with local children and day camp, enjoy a dinner trip to a local restaurant


  • The last work day of the week, Friday starts with a standard work schedule, on-site in the morning and day camp in the afternoon, but then the entire community, including adults, comes to the community center to share a farewell dinner. This is a relatively big event with as many as 100 community members, including children, in a community totaling just over 170.


  • Volunteers depart

*This itinerary is subject to change.

** Families are responsible for transporting their students from U.S.-based airport to their home destination for the summer.

Notes from Abroad

South Dakota 2018

South Dakota #7: Simply Smiles and Glimmers of Light

Ian Gordon ’19 and Steven Li ’19 reflect on the context of life on the Lakota reservation, the mission of Simply Smiles, and the gratitude they feel for the experience they had this week while traveling with their peers on a CSGC travel program in South Dakota.

South Dakota 2018

South Dakota #6: Lasting Friendships

Declan Cullinane ’21, Ricardo Gonzalez ’19, and Christina Li ’20 reflect on the strong connections they have made and the difficulties of saying goodbye.

South Dakota 2018

South Dakota #5: A Rewarding Day

Soo Min Lee ’19 and Helen Lipsky’20 make a connection with an elder from the community and embrace their new found friendships.